Lately I've really been experimenting with artificial lighting, and learning techniques to control it for different effects. The following is a quick behind-the-scenes tutorial for how I lit this shot, featuring Epic Brewing's Imperial Pumpkin Porter. 

Fall-themed photos of epic brewing imperial pumpkin porter


The Idea

I wanted to shoot a fall-themed scene, showcasing Epic Brewing's Imperial Pumpkin Porter (If you aren't familiar with Epic, check out their beers. They're delicious). I also wanted to show a few of the ingredients that go into the beer. From Epic's description of the beer-

"The essence of the fall!  This beer explodes with aromas of sweet spices giving way to chocolate and roasted malt.  Flavors are reminiscent of fresh-cut pumpkin and chocolate and complimented by hints of clove, fresh Madagascar vanilla beans, nutmeg and allspice."

My goal was to put a visual to that description, and light it accordingly. 


The Gear

Canon 5D Mark III

Canon 70-200 f4 L IS Lens

Yongnuo YN500 EX Speed light (x2)

Elinchrom ELB 400 w/ Pro Head

Manfrotto Tripod

Neewer Light Stands

20 degree Elinchrom Grid

CTO orange gel

orange and yellow speedlight gels

Elinchrom Skyport Transmitter

Yongnuo YN622C-TX Transmitter

Yongnuo YN-622C Reciever (x2)

Wescott 45'' Translucent Umbrella



After composing my scene the way I liked, I started to play with the lighting. After some trial and error, the setup I liked best is as follows: I hung a black curtain in the back of the scene, to give it a black background instead of the off-white of the walls in my living room. I placed the ELB 400 pack and Pro Head on the left. The flash head has a 20 degree grid on it, as well as a CTO gel. The CTO gel gives the light a slight warm tint, which is contiguous with the fall theme. The 20 degree grid directs and focuses the light and gives it an even falloff. This light was used to accentuate the beer bottle and highlight the spread of ingredients. On camera right is one of the Yongnuo lights, shooting through the 45'' translucent umbrella. The umbrella softens the light immensely, and provides a fill light for the scene without harsh shadows. Behind the scene and off to the right is the other Yongnuo light, with a yellow gel and an orange gel placed over it. Both gels are rotated 90 degrees from their typical orientation, so half of the light shoots through each gel, giving a nice gradient between the orange and yellow coloring. This light acts as a rim light for the scene, giving some backlight and providing the colored highlights on the edges of the glass, and illuminating the falling leaves. After pre-focusing, I stood on a stool off to the right of the scene and dropped some of the leaves while triggering the camera remotely. Lastly, I shot another photo of the glowing Jack-o-lantern (Which I'm pleased to say I carved myself! haha). I tried shooting it all in one photo, but too much light kept spilling onto the jack-o-lantern, so it looked like the pumpkins on the left of the frame. I wanted to only be able to see the glowing part. I combined the two photos in Photoshop, made some local adjustments in Lightroom, and Voila! I'm pretty pleased at how it turned out. 

Main photo- 1/200 sec., f/9, ISO 100, 100mm. 

Jack-o-lantern- 3.2 sec., f/6.3, ISO 100, 75mm. 


It's important to note that even the smallest flaws will show up in photos like this, something I've definitley learned by making mistakes. Small bits of lint on the bottle, finger prints, ect. will really be noticable under this kind of lighting. I like to polish the bottle and glass with a micro fiber cloth. This gets blemishes off without leaving little bits of lint, which a regular kitchen rag will do. I also got the lighting exactly how I wanted it, and then poured the beer into the glass. Once it's poured, there's a very short window to work with the beer before it starts to go flat and look less appealing. The more of this kind of subject matter I shoot, the more I realize that the setup technique is as much a part of the photo as the camera technique! I look forward to shooting more of this kind of subject matter, and getting better at it, it's really fun and challenging. I'm by no means a master of lighting and product photography, but I really like learning about other photographers' processes for their shots, so hopefully I can pass along some of my knowledge as I'm learning, and inspire others to expound on it! Happy shooting, and Happy Halloween!